Gyllenhaal Gives Great Performance in Sci-fi Horror Flick

 

Life,  Blu-Ray Review, Kam Williams, outer space adventure, alien force, international space station, claustrophobic thriller, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan ReynoldsLife

Blu-Ray Review by Kam Williams

Gyllenhaal Gives Great Performance in Sci-fi Horror Flick

In recent years, Hollywood has started serving up some outer space adventures, a la The Martian (2015) and The Space between Us (2017), suggesting that the Red Planet is basically a benign environment free of any hostile creatures. But just when we thought it was safe to visit Mars again, along comes Life, a cautionary horror flick unleashing a terrifying alien force aboard an international space station.

Directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House), the claustrophobic thriller co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds as Dr. David Jordan and Roy Adams, respectively, the Pilgrim 7’s  flight engineer and chief medical officer. The balance of the six-person crew is composed of Center for Disease Control quarantine specialist Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), systems engineer Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada), eco-biologist Dr. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) and the spaceship’s captain, Katerina Golovkin (Olga Dihovichnaya).

As the film unfolds, we learn that their appointed mission is merely to deliver a single-cell organism arriving via space probe from the surface of Mars. It all sounds easy enough as the disarming plotline initially devotes itself to developing the characters’ back stories, like how David is a disenchanted, Iraq War vet.   

Upon retrieving the capsule, they celebrate the discovery of the first incontrovertible proof of life beyond Earth. They even allow Sho’s daughter to give the ostensibly-innocuous substance a cute, cuddly name, oblivious of the danger lurking just over the horizon.

The plot thickens when “Calvin” begins reproducing via mitosis, and every cell of its luminescent ectoplasmic mass proves to be an irrepressible mix of brains and muscles. By day 25, the sentient creature develops proto-appendages and becomes strong enough to breach containment.

Initially, it nibbles on a finger of Hugh’s, who somehow discerns that “Calvin doesn’t hate us, but he’s got to kill us to survive.” Great. What ensues is a desperate race against time to return to Earth before the mushrooming monster devours them all, one-by-one.

Though reminiscent of such sci-fi classics as Alien (1979) and Species (1995), Life is a worthwhile addition to the extraterrestrial on the loose genre. Substantial credit in this regard goes to the ever-underappreciated Jake Gyllenhaal who turns in the latest in a long line of impressive performances which includes outings in Nocturnal Animals (2016), Southpaw (2015), Nightcrawler (2014) and Prisoners (2013), to name a few.

Strap yourself in for a cardiovascular screamfest that’ll keep you squirming from beginning to end.  A riveting reminder that it still ain’t smart to mess with Mother Nature!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for violence, terror and pervasive profanity

In English, Japanese and Chinese with subtitles

Running time: 104 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes; Astronaut Diaries; Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space; Life: In Zero G; and Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin.

                                                                 

To order a copy of Life on Blu-ray, visit  https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XT9C1C9/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

 

Source:  Baret News

 

Tyler Perry Back as Sassy Granny for Coarse Comedy

 

Boo! A Madea Halloween , Blu-ray Review,  by Kam Williams, Chris Rock, Tyler Perry, sermonizing granny, Diamond WhiteBoo! A Madea Halloween

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Tyler Perry Back as Sassy Granny for Coarse Comedy

No one has ever accused Tyler Perry of being short on ideas. After all, the prolific writer/director has been the brains behind a profusion of plays, movies and television shows.  But he would be the first to admit that he was not the source of inspiration for Boo! A Madea Halloween, the ninth in the Madea series revolving around the sassy, sermonizing granny.

Rather, the idea originated with Chris Rock, who featured a fake poster for a film with the identical title in his 2014 comedy Top Five. Because the joke went viral, Tyler decided why not get back in drag and make a movie to meet the demand generated by the buzz.

But Boo! definitely has a different feel from the previous Madea movies in that it is less your typical Tyler Perry morality play than a rudderless, kitchen sink comedy seizing on any excuse for a laugh. For, the Madea found here is no longer that Bible-thumping role model reliably interfering on behalf of an underdog in distress. Yes, one minute, she’s might be promoting old-fashioned values. However, there she is in the next scene exposing her breasts to lecherous frat boys.

The film does feature a rudimentary plot revolving around Madea’s 17 year-old grand-niece, Tiffany (Diamond White). Note that the premise is established at the point of departure and promptly abandoned. It’s Halloween, and the headstrong high schooler and her girlfriends hope to attend an “epic” party being thrown at Upsilon Theta frat house.

Since her divorced father (also played by Perry) will be otherwise occupied, it falls to Madea to babysit Tiffany, to make sure the rebellious teen never leaves the house. Made arrives with an entourage of amusing misfits, including marijuana-addicted Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), marble-mouthed Hattie (Patrice Lovely), and old fool Uncle Joe (also played by Perry). 

Soon, silly Halloween-themed one-liners, non sequiturs, slapstick and sight gags start flowing at a fast and furious rate that will undoubtedly be appreciated by the target, African-American audience. Yet, many of the punchlines are just as likely to be lost on those unable to decipher the often-inscrutable ebonics-laden exchanges.

Brace yourself for the specter of self-righteous Madea serving up street justice to clowns, collegiates, ghosts and goblins!

Good (2 stars)

Rated PG-13 for drug use, suggestive content, profanity, ethnic slurs, scary images and mature themes

Running time: 103 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Blu-ray extras: “Boo! From the Crew montage; and Why We Love Madea! featurette. 

To order a copy of Boo! A Madea Halloween on Blu-ray, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHWY1U/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Hanks Reprises Role as Crime-Solving Symbologist in Latest Adaptation of Dan Brown Thriller

 

Inferno, Blu-ray Review, by Kam Williams, Ron Howard, Robert Langdon, Dan Brown, Tom HanksInferno

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Hanks Reprises Role as Crime-Solving Symbologist in Latest Adaptation of Dan Brown Thriller

Dan Brown is the author of a quartet of best-selling mysteries featuring Harvard Professor Robert Langdon as the protagonist. The phenomenally-popular novels have sold over 100 million copies and counting, with the fifth in the series slated to be released in the fall of 2017.

Screen versions of the first two Robert Langdon books, The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009), netted over a billion dollars at the box office. So, it’s no surprise that another adaptation might be in order.

Inferno reunites director Ron Howard with Tom Hanks who reprises his lead role as a genius with an uncanny knack for deciphering ancient symbols and religious iconography. And Howard enlisted the assistance of a stellar support cast which includes Ben Foster, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan and Omar Sy.

Inferno is easily the most successful of the offerings, as it reins in Langdon’s earlier  tendency to overindulgence in inscrutable jargon. This go round, the intellectual badinage has been minimized to make way for a flurry of visually-captivating action sequences.

Another plus is the easy to follow plotline. The point of departure is a hospital in Florence, Italy which is where we find Langdon suffering from amnesia yet lucky to be alive given how a bullet to the head only grazed his scalp.

Before we even have a chance to blink, a gun-toting assassin (Ana Ularu) arrives to finish the job. Fortunately, Langdon’s gorgeous doctor, Sienna Brooks (Jones), not only helps him escape on the spot, but is prepared to abandon her practice to go on the run with her traumatized patient.

As it turns out, the hit woman was part of a much larger conspiracy. For, she was merely doing the bidding of Bertrand Zobrist (Foster), an evil billionaire on the verge of hatching a disturbing solution for the world’s overpopulation problem. Essentially, the madman’s plan is to unleash a lethal virus designed to kill half the people on the planet in less than a week.

That sets the stage for Langdon and Sienna’s dizzying race against time to unearth a cornucopia of clues enabling them to track down and disarm the diabolical Zobrist. That in a nutshell is the sum and substance of Inferno, except for a humdinger of a twist it would be unfair to spoil.

Easily, the most accessible, engaging, entertaining and cinematic adaptation of a Dan Brown thriller yet!

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated  PG-13 for action, violence, profanity, disturbing images, mature themes and brief sensuality

In English, French and Italian with subtitles

Running time: 121 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Deleted and extended scenes; Ron Howard: A Director’s Journal; A Look at Langdon; The Billionaire Villain: Bertrand Zobrist; This Is Sienna Brooks; Inferno around the World; and Vision of Hell.

To order a copy of Inferno on Blu-ray, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHWTHO/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source: GIG News

Mark Wahlberg Vehicle Revisits BP Oil Spill

 

Deepwater Horizon

Blu-Ray Review by Kam Williams

Mark Wahlberg Vehicle Revisits BP Oil Spill

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, located 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana, exploded when high-pressure methane gas blew out the drill pipe. 11 members of the crew perished in the ensuing fiery inferno which engulfed the platform.

Deepwater Horizon,  Blu-Ray Review, by Kam Williams, Mark Wahlberg, BP Oil Spill, harrowing tale of survival, justice served

The accident also caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history, with over 200 million gallons of crude leaking into the Gulf of Mexico by the time the well was finally capped 86 days later.   At that point, authorities turned their attention to the question of who was to blame for the mammoth ecological disaster.

There was no shortage of potential villains to sort through, given that the drilling unit had been built in South Korea, was owned by Transocean Limited, a Swiss company, operated under the flag of the Marshall Islands, was leased to British Petroleum (BP) but maintained by Halliburton, an American field service corporation, and serviced by Schlumberger, a Dutch company. Ultimately, the bulk of the blame would be attributed to BP, which would be found guilty of gross negligence and pay billions of dollars in damages to thousands of aggrieved parties.

Directed by Peter Berg (Battleship), Deepwater Horizon revisits the infamous incident primarily from the perspective of the rig’s Chief Electronics Technician, Mike Williams. The picture reunites Berg with Mark Wahlberg with whom he previously collaborated on Lone Survivor.

Wahlberg plays Williams, a working-class hero of unquestioned integrity. As the film unfolds, we find him bidding adieu to his family before departing for a 21-day tour on the Horizon. If only Mike had heeded warning signs like his wife’s (Kate Hudson) premonitions and his daughter Sydney’s (Stella Allen) science project with a Coke can geyser gone kabluey, he might have had the good sense to call in sick.

The same could be said of his colleague Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), a mechanic who couldn’t get her car started that same morning. Even the helicopter ferrying them to work experienced an ominous bird strike en route to the platform. And upon landing, they’re greeted by a pal with a macabre skull-and-crossbones emblazoned on his hard hat.

Deepwater Horizon,  Blu-Ray Review, by Kam Williams, Mark Wahlberg, BP Oil Spill, harrowing tale of survival, justice served

Of far more significance are Don Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Bob Kaluza (Brad Leland), the bigwig BP bureaucrats who begin bullying their employees from the minute the chopper lands on the deck. This clueless pair of villains prove willing to put profits before any safety concerns, so it’s no surprise when the platform’s unstable drill pipe pops its cork.

The spectacular, pyrotechnic calamity which follows affords Mike an opportunity not only to play hero in a sea of fire but to later shame the cowardly culprits responsible in court. A harrowing tale of survival topped off by justice duly being served. What more could you ask for from an action-oriented morality play? 

   

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for intense action sequences, disturbing images and brief profanity

Running time: 107 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Beyond the Horizon (an hour-long 5-part series); Captain of the Rig: Peter Berg; The Fury of the Rig; Deepwater Surveillance; and Work Like an American (tributes).

To order a copy of Deepwater Horizon on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHWXY8/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Original Source:  GIG News

Affleck Impressive as Accountant-Turned-Assassin in Cloak-and-Dagger Thriller

 

 The Accountant,  Blu-Ray Review, by Kam Williams, Ben Affleck, Aspberger's Syndrome, cat-and-mouse caperThe Accountant

Blu-Ray Review by Kam Williams

Affleck Impressive as Accountant-Turned-Assassin in Cloak-and-Dagger Thriller

At first blush, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) looks like your average CPA. After all, the self-employed nerd plies his trade in a modest office located in a nondescript strip mall in suburban Plainfield, Illinois.

The talented forensic accountant’s is apparently very well-suited to the profession, given that he was born with Aspberger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism which enabled him to become something of a math savant. Nevertheless, looks can be very deceiving, since the mild-mannered loner also has a shadowy side he is great at keeping under wraps.

Consequently, no one has any idea that Christian’s clients happen to be powerful mobsters in need of laundering huge sums of cash without attracting the attention of the authorities. Over the years, he has become wealthy in his own right by cooking the books for crooks  while resisting the temptation to live beyond his apparent means. 

Eventually, Christian’s business does arouse the suspicion of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division led by Director Raymond King (J.K. Simmons). Aware that government agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and her minions are on his tail, Christian decides to represent a very respected, hi-tech firm in order to look legit. 

However, he and an employee (Dana Cummings) at Living Robotics find their lives threatened when he uncovers corruption in the company to the tune of millions of dollars. But those crooks have no idea that he had been trained to defend himself by an overprotective father (Robert C. Trevelier) obsessed with his autistic son’s never being bullied. Though it has been many years since that indoctrination, those skills suddenly kick in, as Christian morphs into a cold, calculated assassin, ala the “Manchurian Candidate.”

Thus unfolds The Accountant, a high body-count, cat-and-mouse caper directed by Gavin O’Connor (Tumbleweeds). The film rests upon an engrossing script that’s been artfully executed by an ensemble of A-list thespians featuring Academy Award-winners Ben Affleck and J.K. Simmons, as well as Oscar-nominees Anna Kendrick and John Lithgow.

A clever and compelling, multi-layered masterpiece!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity

In English, French and Indonesian with su btitles

Running time: 128 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Inside the Man; Behavioral Science; and The Accountant in Action.

To order a copy of The Accountant on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LBWHR7Y/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  Baret News

Nate Parker Writes, Directs and Stars in Nat Turner Biopic

 

51kd2ur5ijlThe Birth of a Nation

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Nate Parker Writes, Directs and Stars in Nat Turner Biopic 

Nat Turner (Nate Parker) was born into slavery on October 2, 1800 on a sprawling plantation located in Southampton County, Virginia. There, as a precocious child, he exhibited a thirst for knowledge at an early age and learned to read the Bible with the help of his masters, Samuel (Armie Hammer) and Elizabeth Turner (Penelope Ann Miller). The couple simultaneously shielded him from the brutality of the evil institution by granting him the privilege of living and working in the mansion rather than having to toil in the cotton fields alongside his mother (Aunjanue Ellis) and grandmother (Esther Scott).

Nat grew up a deeply-religious boy, and was turned into a traveling preacher tasked with spreading the word of God to fellow slaves from neighboring towns. In that capacity, his job was to keep the masses of oppressed African-Americans content with their miserable lot in life by reciting scriptural passages like “Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the cruel.” (1 Peter 2:18)

However, the more he witnessed the atrocities associated with slavery, the more outraged he became. And by the time he reached adulthood, he’d not only become convinced that it was evil, but he’d started surreptitiously quoting Biblical verses supporting that conclusion, such as “Do not become slaves of men.” (1 Corinthians 7:23)

Nat subsequently had a miraculous vision in which he was directly ordered by God to set his people free. That transformative moment would serve as the inspiration for a bloody insurrection which would begin with the slaying of his masters and ultimately claim about 60 more white slave owner lives.

All of the above is graphically depicted in The Birth of a Nation, a reverential biopic marking the impressive directorial debut of Nate Parker (The Great Debaters). Nate also co-wrote the script and stars here, as Nat Turner, in a revisionist period piece which effectively recasts as a hero an infamous slave revolt leader previously denigrated by history because of his resort to violence.

This compelling drama landed both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and had emerged as the prohibitive Best Picture Academy Award favorite until buzz about Mr. Parker’s having been accused of rape while in college went viral across the blogosphere. An emotionally-unsettling alternate version of a controversial chapter in America’s slave legacy!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated  R for brief nudity and disturbing violence

Running time: 120 minutes

Distributor: Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Rise Up: The Legacy of Nat Turner Documentary; Feature Commentary by director Nate Parker; deleted scenes with optional director commentary; The Birth of a Nation: The Making of a Movement; #AmeriCAN (Short Film) with optional director commentary; Free God: Spoken Word; Celebration of Independent Voices – Nate Parker; the shooting script; and a stills gallery.

To order a copy of The Birth of a Nation on Blu-ray, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHN5TK/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  Baret News

Docudrama Revisits Exploits of Expatriated Whistleblower

 

Snowden,  Blu-Ray Review, by Kam Williams, cloak-and-dagger drama, NSA Whistleblower, international manhunt, Hong Kong, Oliver StoneSnowden

Blu-Ray Review by Kam Williams

Docudrama Revisits Exploits of Expatriated Whistleblower

Citizenfour won the 2016 Academy Award in the Best Documentary category. But given how the movie made less than $4 million worldwide, one might reasonably conclude that the details of Edward Snowden’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dump of National Security Agency documents remains substantially unknown.

This is ostensibly the thinking of three-time Oscar-winner Oliver Stone (for Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July) in turning the story into a cloak-and-dagger drama about the NSA whistleblower-turned-fugitive’s leak of classified information before going into hiding from the U.S. government. The movie unfolds in June of 2013 in the Hong Kong hotel room where Snowden met with journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen Macaskill (Tom Wilkinson) along with Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), the eventual director of Citizenfour.

  We learn that following four days of interviews, Greenwald published his first story in the British daily newspaper, The Guardian. The Pulitzer Prize-winning series related in stunning detail the extent of NSA surveillance of American citizens in direct contradiction of a recent denial uttered under oath to Congress by James Clapper, the nation’s Director of National Intelligence.

Because the articles identified Snowden as the source of the information, he immediately became the subject of an intense international manhunt. He somehow managed to slip through the dragnet and boarded a commercial airliner bound for Moscow, despite the fact that his passport had been revoked and the U.S. had requested his extradition from Hong Kong.

Upon landing in Russia, Edward was awarded temporary asylum and he has languished there ever since. Lucky for him, this movie has revived interest in his case, inspiring him to recently make a public appeal for clemency.

But a presidential pardon is unlikely to be forthcoming, even though President Obama considered the apprehension of the “29 year old-hacker” a very low priority back in June of ’13. So today, Snowden remains a fugitive from justice charged in absentia with theft, espionage and conversion of government property.

Via a variety of empathetic flashbacks, we are informed by the film that Edward was a high school dropout who suffers from epilepsy. He also enjoys a very loving, enduring relationship with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), the loyal girlfriend who followed him from Virginia to Hawaii to Moscow. More importantly, the movie establishes Edward as so patriotic he was willing to jeopardize his future to sound the alarm about the surreptitious NSA’s widespread violations of our Constitutional rights.

Congrats to Oliver Stone for crafting a reverential biopic which convincingly repositions a supposed traitor as an altruistic hero of the highest order.   

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated  R for profanity, sexuality and nudity

in English and Russian with subtitles

Running time: 135 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes; “Finding the Truth” featurette; and a Q&A with Edward Snowden. . 

To order a copy of Snowden on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHO65M/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  Baret News

Denzel Heads Star-Studded Ensemble in Remake of Kurosawa Classic

 

The Magnificent Seven,  Blu-ray Review, by Kam Williams, Akira Kurosawa, Seven Samurai, Denzel WashingtonThe Magnificent Seven

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Denzel Heads Star-Studded Ensemble in Remake of Kurosawa Classic

Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa in 1954, Seven Samurai was a groundbreaking film which had a profound influence on the evolution of cinema for generations to come. Superficially, that seminal work merely reads like a martial arts epic set in 16th Century Japan. Yet, over the years, it has spawned a cottage industry of knockoffs trading in the picture’s novel narrative revolving around a rag-tag team of selfless heroes recruited in service of some lofty goal.

In 1960, Seven Samurai was remade as The Magnificent Seven, a sprawling Western co-starring Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn and James Coburn. Today, that classic has been refreshed by Antoine Fuqua in an outing reuniting the director with Denzel Washington following successful collaborations on The Equalizer (2014) and Training Day (2001) for which the latter won an Academy Award.

This incarnation of The Magnificent Seven does feature a few variations on the theme. For example, the picture’s dastardly bad guy is now an avaricious white man intent on seizing a mining town’s gold instead of a Mexican bandito simply staging a series of border raids. And the good guys enlisted to engage the greedy gringo are a politically-correct, rainbow coalition reflecting every ethnicity.

Otherwise, the essence of the original plot remains intact. As the film unfolds, we find the folks in the frontier settlement of Rose Creek living in fear of Bartholomew Bogue and his gang of marauders. Bogue is your stereotypical, bloodthirsty villain, straight out of central casting, played to perfection by Peter Sarsgaard.

It is established early on just how low the diabolical Bogue will stoop to achieve his evil ends, between murdering an innocent woman and burning the church to the ground. That makes the arrival of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) all the more welcome by the time the exasperated and intimidated local yokels are at their collective wit’s end.

They also have no idea that Chisolm isn’t merely motivated by altruism but has his own revenge-fueled reason to tangle with Bogue. Regardless, once deputized, the gunslinger proceeds to assemble a motley crew composed of a Civil War vet suffering from shell shock (Ethan Hawke), a hard-drinking bombmaker (Chris Pratt), a gruff mountain man  (Vincent D’Onofrio), a Chicano outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a crack Comanche archer (Martin Sensmeier) and a knife-throwing, Asian assassin (Byung-hun Lee).

Don’t expect any deeply-developed characters and you won’t be disappointed. It’s all about the inexorable march to the big showdown during which the heroes will obviously even the score, and then some. The Wild, Wild West revisited as an ethnically-diverse fantasy land Hollywood has never imagined before!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for intense violence, smoking, profanity and suggestive material

Running time: 133 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes; Vengeance Mode; Gunslingers; The Taking of Rose Creek; Directing the Seven; Rogue Bogue; The Seven; and Magnificent Music. . .

To order a copy of The Magnificent Seven on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHMF3M/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  Baret News

Morgan Freeman Stars in Remake of Charlton Heston Classic

 

Ben-Hur,  Blu-ray Review, by Kam Williams, Morgan Freeman, Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the ChristBen-Hur

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Morgan Freeman Stars in Remake of Charlton Heston Classic

It takes a lot of chutzpah to remake the Hollywood epic that won the most Academy Awards in history. But that’s just what we have in Ben-Hur, a fairly-faithful version of the 1959 classic starring Charlton Heston.

The films are based on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a novel published in 1880 which quickly surpassed Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the best-selling American novel of all time. The book’s author was Lew Wallace, a Civil War General who had led Union soldiers at the battle of Shiloh.

His inspirational tale of redemption’s success was credited to the fact that its timely  themes of family, freedom and patriotism helped unify a citizenry torn asunder by years of war and then Reconstruction. Its compassionate tone particularly appealed to Southerners, because of its sympathetic treatment of slave owners, encouraging resolution via reconciliation rather than revenge.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), this incarnation of Ben-Hur stars Jack Huston as the title character, although the supposed star is easily overshadowed by the film’s narrator, Morgan Freeman, who enjoys a very expanded role as Ilderiim, a wealthy Nubian sheik. 

The story is set in Jerusalem in the time of Christ (Rodrigo Santoro). As the the film unfolds, we find Prince Judah Ben-Hur living in the lap of luxury with his mother (Ayelet Zurer), sister Tirzah (Sofia Black D’Elia) and adopted brother Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell), an orphan taken in as a child by the altruistic noble clan. Judah also has a love interest, Esther ( Nazanin Boniadi), though her lowly slave status makes their marriage unlikely.

The plot thickens when the fully-grown Messala, by then a Roman soldier, unfairly fingers the Ben-Hur family for an act of treason perpetrated by Gestas (Moises Arias), one of the thieves crucified on Calvary alongside Jesus. Next thing you know, the family is separated and sold into slavery, and Judah ends up in chains, rowing in the galley of a warship.

Eventually, he gains his freedom, and starts searching for Esther, his sister and mom. Along the way, he finds religion and is afforded an opportunity to even the score with Massala in a chariot race at the Circus Maximus. in this regard, he’s lucky to have wily old Ilderim in his corner, the best darn horse whisperer/charioteer trainer this side of the Tiber.

Distracting CGI mob scenes and heavy-handed sermonizing aside, Ben-Hur 2016 is nevertheless a very entertaining variation on the original that’s well-worth the investment.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images

Running time: 124 minutes

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Blu-Ray Extras: Ben-Hur: The Legacy; The Epic Cast; A Tale for Our Times; The Chariot Race; deleted and extended scenes; and music videos. 

To order a copy of Ben-Hur on Blu-ray, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01KN66IME/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  Baret News

Day-in-the-Life Romance Drama Chronicles the Barack and Michelle’s Very First Date

 

Southside with You, Blu-ray Review, Kam Williams, Barack, First Date, syrupy soap operaSouthside with You

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Day-in-the-Life Romance Drama Chronicles the Barack and Michelle’s Very First Date

Who would ever think of making a movie just about Barack (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Obama’s (Tika Sumpter) first date? Richard Tanne would, that’s who, and he makes an impressive directorial debut with this inspirational biopic chronicling a very eventful day in the lives of the future President and First Lady.

The story unfolds in Chicago during the summer of 1989 when Michelle was already employed as an attorney and living back home with her parents (Vanessa Bell Calloway and Phillip Edwad Van Lear). Barack had just finished his first year at Harvard law school and had landed an internship as her assistant at her prestigious, white-shoe firm.

Apparently, he was so instantly smitten with Michelle that he could barely contain himself. So, she had to politely remind him of the the office’s strict rule against fraternizing among associates. Nevertheless, when she refused to consider a romantic rendezvous, he pitched her on the idea of attending a business meeting with him.

Once Michelle grudgingly agrees, Barack arrives late, yet is too cocky to be embarrassed about either his tardiness or the gaping hole in the floor of his rusty jalopy. What the skeptical object of his affection doesn’t know is that he has added a picnic, a museum and a movie to their planned itinerary.

Again, Michelle balks, but consents only after reminding her self-assured suitor that “This is not a date.” Nevertheless, the smooth-talking chain smoker presses on with his own agenda, with the Art Institute of Chicago being their first port-of-call. And while perusing paintings by the legendary Ernie Barnes, Barack began broaching personal subjects.

The two continued to get to know each other over sandwiches in the park, with the discussion touching on everything from family to faith to blackness to the meaning of life. So, Michelle had a decent measure of the man by the time they headed to the South Side rec center where Barack had once worked as a community organizer.   

The icing on the cake proves to be an inspirational speech that’s nothing short of presidential which he delivers there to the discouraged denizens of the crumbling ‘hood. Michelle’s floodgates finally open, undoubtedly helped along by one woman’s (Deanna Reed Foster) approval of her as the first sister she’s ever seen Barack with. Next thing you know, the two lovebirds head to the theater to see Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, before capping off the evening with a little canoodling while sharing an ice cream cone.   

Southside with You is a syrupy soap opera readily recommended for ardent Obama admirers. The predictable love story has a tendency to telegraph its punches, since its familiar plotline sticks to what’s already public knowledge. Overall, this plausible account of the blossoming of love between Barack and Michelle serves up a pleasant, if sanitized version of their romantic launch en route to an historic rendezvous with destiny!

Very Good (3 stars)

PG-13 for smoking, a violent image, brief profanity and a drug reference

Running time: 84 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Director’s commentary; and original artwork and animation.

To order a copy of Southside with You on Blu-Ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHMFPK/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  Baret News